The new Leaf will start at $30,875, including shipping. That is $690 less than the outgoing version, and less than the Leaf's original cost, said Ken Kcomt, Nissan's director of product planning for passenger cars and sports cars. The Leaf sold for $33,600, including shipping, when it first appeared, offering just a 73-mile range on a full charge.
"There are EV competitors out there today with greater range," Kcomt said. "But that extra range comes with a higher price. Our customers told us that affordability was their biggest issue. They're not necessarily willing to pay for more range if they don't need it. For 80 percent of EV buyers, 150 miles is a good number."
For the other 20 percent, Nissan intends to deliver a bigger and longer-range battery option in 2019. Nissan says the battery choice is akin to customers choosing between four- and six-cylinder engine options.
Nissan is also changing the Leaf's strategic marketing message, according to Brian Maragno, director of EV marketing and sales strategy. Nissan originally sold the Leaf on its environmental appeal, reaching for consumers who wanted to buy green and not use fossil fuel.
Starting with the 2018 model, the Leaf will be marketed for what Nissan is calling "EV-ness," Maragno said.
That essentially means that when it comes to EVs in 2018, consumers get it. They understand that the cars do not use gasoline and represent a smaller carbon footprint.
Instead of telling consumers what they already know, Nissan will market the car's performance, improved ride, technology and comfort, Maragno said. The new Leaf comes with a higher-grade steering wheel, a flashier display screen and more sedate styling.
But the Leaf still faces a number of challenges.
For starters, it is a sedan in an era of shrinking industry car sales. It is launching at a less than optimal time. Nissan's U.S. showrooms will get the car early next year — and winter is a tough time to excite customers.
Nissan also has more EV competitors than ever. Chevrolet's Bolt is a true EV, unlike the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid that challenged the first-generation Leaf. And then there is Tesla, which offers a range of electric vehicles. Ford and BMW also offer EVs, with others — including Toyota and Volkswagen — lining up to follow suit.